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Vetting reading books

23 replies

ohnoherewego · 15/11/2007 16:46

Last night my 8 year old DD brought Jacqueline Wilson's "Dustbin Baby" home as her chosen reading book. We stopped her reading at p22 which described 14 year old girl having a drink at a party,believing a boy who says he loves her, letting him "love her" and getting pregnant. I went to see deputy head this morning who agreed totally unsuitable for age and would be removed from shelf. I asked how it had ever been included to which he said books are ordered from suppliers according to the supplier's recommendations. But IMO the school have a responsibility to check the reading material they're giving the kids. What systems do other schools use?

OP posts:
noonar · 15/11/2007 16:58

gosh. i teach year 5, and have to admit, i'd have thought i was safe with a jaqueline wilsn. howvever, the title is intriguing and might've warranted a closer look.

christywhisty · 15/11/2007 18:30

In our library some Jaqueline Wilson is in the teenage section , seperated from the children's section.

ohnoherewego · 16/11/2007 17:10


OP posts:
seeker · 17/11/2007 07:54

Oh, this is a hobby horse of mine!

In my opinion, a lot of Jaqueline WIlson is TOTALLY unsuitable for a pre teen child to read alone. As a read aloud, either at home or at school, with pauses for explanation and discussion, yes, but not alone in your bedroom at the age of 8. Or even 9 or 10. Sometimes it's the content, sometimes it's the level of emotional literacy needed to understand whe's going on. Because she is so well marketted and, to be fair, so HUGELY readable, people think she's safe for this age group, but I don't agree!
HAve you tried Hilary MacKay or Karen McCombie instead? They both deal with serious issues, but with a much likhter touch. And more humor, which I think is sadly lacking in JW's books for older children.

ohnoherewego · 17/11/2007 21:35

Thanks seeker. I agree totally unsuitable but the problem is she brought it home from school as her "reading book " so we didn't have the chance to vet it. On talking to mums on playground it was apparent lots of kids had read it without their mums being aware of content.

OP posts:
RosaLuxMundi · 17/11/2007 23:08

I have to agree about JW. DD2 (7) had one about a girl who was regularly beaten up by her stepfather so ran away to her gran but her mum and step dad tried to get her back because her gran's boyfriend was just about to come out of prison after doing time for killing a man in a pub brawl .
I do not censor my children's reading because I try to read everything they read with them and discuss sticky bits but it was a bit much for a seven-year-old I thought.

Ellbell · 17/11/2007 23:12

Oh Rosa... dh let dd1 (also 7) bring that one home from the library. I must admit I hid it and took it back the next time we went. In reply to OP, yes, I think the school should be aware of the content of books they lend out as reading books.

seeker · 18/11/2007 06:17

sorry,ohnoherewego, didn't make myself clear! I understood that you hadn't had a chance to vet it. My outrage was directed at the school, not at you!

NKF · 18/11/2007 08:09

The head did agree to remove it though. I think it was probably just an oversight or nobody had time to read all the books. JW is extremely popular and I imagine for many children is their first stab at grim realism. She probably appeals to children in the same way those misery memoir books appeal to some adults.

roisin · 18/11/2007 08:33

Yes, there are a couple of very grim JW Wilson books; the other particularly awful one about domestic abuse and so on is called Lola Rose.

The problem for schools is unless you have a particularly committed librarian, they may not know the children's publishing market very well. And if JW is popular (and she is) and children are requesting more of ther books (and they probably are), then it is an easy mistake to make.

Personally I think because many children stop reading completely aged 12 or 13, publishers are very reluctant to clearly market books as unsuitable for U12s or whatever.

The boy in the striped pyjamas is a book we have discussed on here before. The cover is appealing to 7-8 yr-olds, and has a tiny warning on the back "unsuitable for younger readers" with no explanation as to what that might mean.

roisin · 18/11/2007 08:36

It is important for parents to be vigilant about reading materials, especially if you have children who are very fluent readers at the age of 7-9.

I recently enjoyed vetting this book Before I die But was reluctant to recommend it to my yr7 reading club members, in case parents objected! Maybe I'll ask who has read Dustbin Baby or Lola Rose, and offer it to them

"Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her 'To Do Before I Die list'. And number one is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out. "BEFORE I DIE" is a brilliantly-crafted novel, heartbreaking yet astonishingly life-affirming. It will take you to the very edge."

chopchopbusybusy · 18/11/2007 08:47

Yes, I do think the school has a responsibility to vet reading books. I know at DDs school the library puts red dots on some books and these are only available for YR7 and 8, not for the younger ones.

Roisin - I have read - and enjoyed - Before I die. I consider myself to be very open with my DDs, but imo it is too much for YR7. Not just the sexual references, but the drugs and stealing too.

NKF · 18/11/2007 08:47

I missed the discussion on The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I've just read it and would love to hear people's views.

NKF · 18/11/2007 08:49

On another thought, I think good readers often do read unsuitable books. I know I did as a child. And whereas my parental instincts are for a kind of censorship, my feelings as a lifelong reader are more along the lines of let them read what they want.

roisin · 18/11/2007 09:59

Within certain boundaries though NKF.

DS1 was a precociously early fluent reader, and was capable of reading just about anything by the time he was 7. (He'd read The Two Towers before his 7th birthday, for example!) And I did carefully vet and censor his reading material particularly from age 6-9.

He's 10 now, and I don't really vet his reading at all. He read something recently he found rather disturbing, but I can't remember what it was!

But I appreciate that not all parents share those views and as a professional in school I tend to err on the side of caution when recommending books to students.

Issy · 18/11/2007 10:20

The DDs' school doesn't have any JW on its shelves. Now, admittedly it is a precious, protective, little, Catholic, Surrey prep-school, but the view of the staff there is that most of JW's themes are too adult for primary school children. Of course, if parents feel that JW is appropriate reading for their child, they don't have a problem with children reading them outside school. Children mature emotionally at different rates and their emotional maturity doesn't necessarily keep pace with their reading age. DD1 at 6.5yo, can read reasonably fluently (post 'Rainbow Fairies' but not up to Harry Potter), can manage quite complex relationships with her friends but is still watching Cbeebies pretty much exclusively.

NKF · 18/11/2007 11:14

I think thought that children often read above their emotional maturity and with great enjoyment. I remember that thrill of picking up an adult book and knowing it was different and exciting compared with children's reading. I agree there's no easy answer between censorship and letting them explore. I struggle with it all the time.

ohnoherewego · 18/11/2007 12:31

Agree with roisin; schools should consider carefully when providing books. Parents know their children best and know what they can deal with. We were concerned that my DS had skimmed read this book at school before she brought it home and therefore we didn't have any input as to whether it was suitable and neither did the school as they had merely acted on recommendation of the bookseller. It'a a C of E primary awash with parents who would gladly give of their time and do, so lack of time is no excuse for not having a proper system. I'm going to speak to the governers to see if a system can be put in place so we're not relying solely on bookseller's advice because at the end of the day their motivation is sales. In original post I asked what systems other schools use because I appreciate it's an onerous task to land on the school librarian.Does anyone have any experience?

OP posts:
CodDickinson · 18/11/2007 12:32

i think jacqulienw ilson books are terribel anwyay
cna tgetw hey tracy beaker si sucha hit
clrice bean far better

seeker · 19/11/2007 12:21

5nteresting. I was happy with dd reading the Boy in Striped Pyjamas because in my opinion, it's a book about a particular period in history and some individuals in it. I was also a bit of history that they covered to some extent in Year 4. My problem with Jacqueline Wilson is that she presents such a universally bleak vision of the world, and it looks like the world my children live in only "nastyfied". Does that make sense?

grendel · 20/11/2007 21:02

DD took out a book from the U12 section of our local library called 'The Chieftan's Daughter' by McBratney (of 'HOw much do I love you' fame). Lovely picture of Celtic girl on front. Very appealing to my then 7 year old.

Fortunately it so happened that I ended up reading it aloud to DD as bedtime story so that I was able to furtively skirt around bits in the story as the crucial tipping point in the story revolves around a rape and subsequent pregnancy of one of the characters! Obviously the rape itself is not described, but the fact that it has happened and its consequences are a crucial part of the book. This is not suitable for a 7 year old!

(I kept amending 'rape' to 'attack'. DD was faintly puzzled but didn't snatch book to read for herself.)

When I took it back and complained to the librarian that it was on the wrong shelf she apologised but explained that they just go by the publisher's recommendations when deciding which section to put books in.

gingerwench · 22/11/2007 10:57

I agree with the comments about literacy vs emotional maturity. I was reading adult books at a young age - normally ok and i wouldn't always fully understand references but I would take something from the book anyway.

I remember reading 1984 at 10 and enjoying it as a fable but not getting the political angle at all (well how I could I?) but then i read Brave New World immediately afterwards which is v disturbing (I do recall my mother saying to my dad as he got it down from the shelf for me "do you think that's a bit old for her" and he said no, but it was really).

I think I went through a phase of wanting to read "teenage books" but they seem quite tame to what you are describing in JW. I'm quite shocked at that content for pre-teens.

lljkk · 22/11/2007 11:07

I don't know how our school vets things... but it must be difficult. I think it's always hard with very fluent early readers to find books right for their level, I noticed this with one of DS classmates in Yr2. Even relatively 'innocent' books meant for a reading age of 11-12 might have stuff in it about complicated conspiracies, adventures and hidden meanings in conversations. This very bright girl could read all the words, but she didn't have life experience or maturity to comprehend fully.

I find it hard-going to let 8yo DS read the "Horrible History" books - some of them describe quite appalling cruelty and violence. He's not upset by it, but his sensitive sister will be and I'll know not to let her exposed to those books any earlier than we have to. We've shifted to Horrible Science/Geography, instead.

I was a precocious reader, too, and def. read some unsuitable books (violence, etc.) as a result.

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